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Article From Business Street

Mary and Rick Pitman of Mary's Turkeys


Turkeys for the nation

Mary's Turkeys: It began with a gift

By James Olinger BUSINESS STREET -

Nov 29, 2005

Fresno, CA - Turkey fans often find it hard to believe that Mary Pitman, owner of Mary's Turkeys, which is on a ranch located in Madera that raises and ships turkeys to different stores across the U.S. will, most of the time, answer the phone herself.

"I answer my own hotline, and people really don't believe it's me a lot of the time," said Mary, who has become a bit of a celebrity in the seven years that Mary's Turkeys has been in existence.

The Pitman tradition started back in 1954, when Mary's father-in-law started raising his own free-range turkeys. Mary said that her husband, Rick Pitman, introduced the family's first turkey, the Mary's Free-Range Turkey, in 1998. The Pitman's marketed the birds in their own bag, and handled the sales.

This original turkey has had a special meaning for the pair, as Rick presented it to Mary as a gift for the couple's 25th wedding anniversary.

"So my husband said that was my anniversary gift, he was naming this turkey after me," laughs Mary. "So I always laugh and say, 'Some girls get diamonds, I get a turkey named after me.'"

The Pitman family insists that all their turkeys be fed a strict diet that is free of antibiotics, preservatives and additives. "I don't inject the turkeys with anything. It gives them a lot more flavor and moisture," said Mary.

When asked about the diet of the plump birds, Mary said, "They are fed corn, soy bean milk, soy bean oil, calcium, phosphorus, and a vitamin and mineral pack."

It seems like Rick Pitman has a tendency for giving his wife turkeys as gifts for certain special occasions. In honor of the couple's 30th wedding anniversary, five years after the birth of Mary's first turkey, two more were added: Mary's Free-Range Organic Turkey, and the immensely popular Mary's Free-Range Heritage Turkey.

The Heritage Turkey itself has been in such "unbelievable huge demand" that the Pitman's are scrambling to get the mail orders out. On the day that Business Street spoke with Mary, she claimed that 300 such orders were sent out. For those interested in purchasing one of Mary's Turkeys in the Central Valley, they may be bought at such stores as the Meat Market in Fresno or any Save Mart Supermarket.

Things have been so chaotic at the Pitman house with the Heritage Turkey orders that for the month, Mary's mother (also named Mary) has moved in to help answer the phone. Two to three assistants have also been hired, just to help with the Heritage orders.

Many of Mary Pitman's waking hours are spent on the phone these days, taking orders from those who crave the family's delicious turkeys. "I have been taking orders for the Heritage Turkeys since last November. Last year I was on the phone eight to 12 hours a day from September through December, just for the Heritage Turkeys. I haven't really recovered," said a weary Mary.

She explained a little about the uniqueness of the Heritage Turkey. "With the Heritage Turkey it's just different in that it's the original turkey before they started cross-breeding them in the 60's, and it's been a huge favorite among chefs and just people in general because it's the original turkey flavor. The meat has more thigh meat, less breast meat in the Heritage Turkey."

For all of Mary's and her family's efforts to keep the business going, Mary said that out of all of them, her husband, Rick, is the one who really keeps it going, making sure the turkeys are on the trucks.

"My husband, Rick Pitman, is the one that makes all this happen. He works 20 hours a day, most of the month of October and the entire month of November, so he can get all of these turkeys on the right truck at the right time. It's a tremendous amount of stress, I don't know how he does it," said Mary.

Along with the different ranches that they have, the Pitman's also own a poultry processing plant in Sanger.

Rick and Mary are the proud parents of three boys: Mark, David and Ben.

Ben is the designer of the Mary's Turkeys website, which is On the site is anabundance of information on the Pitman family, regarding their business, and, of course, the turkeys themselves. Also included are cooking instructions, comments from happy consumers of the birds, and articles from respected publications such as Time Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Probably most important is the fact that people can order the turkeys online as well as find the locations of the many stores they are sold in.

During the times when Mary has a moment to spare, she can reflect on the years she and the rest of the Pitman's have spent helping to supply America with tasty turkeys.
And it began with the gift of the Free-Range Turkeys from her husband Rick.
Mary herself said, "Everybody always says it's the best turkey they'd ever had."

Mary's Free-Range Turkeys
These turkeys are raised on healthful grains and allowed to roam in areas four times the size of the average commercial turkey ranch. Their high protein diet provides the optimum amount of nutrients for the turkey to grow into a bigger and more flavorful turkey than one typically found in the supermarket. You won't find any antibiotics, animal by-products, preservatives or hormones in a Mary's Free-Range Turkey.

Mary's Free-Range Organic Turkeys

Mary's Free-Range Organic Turkeys are fed a certified organic high protein diet complete with the finest grains and vegetable proteins and grow naturally with plenty of open space on a certified organic ranch in sunny California. Because of cleaner living quarters, a healthier and happier turkey is produced having a better taste. You won't find any antibiotics, animal by-products, preservatives or hormones in a Mary's Free-Range Organic

Mary's Free-Range Heritage
Just as Noah's
Ark was created to preserve animal species, the Slow Food U.S.A. "Ark of Taste" was created to ensure the survival of near-extinct foods. The Narragansett, the oldest United States turkey variety, and the Bourbon Red were placed on the Slow Food U.S.A. "Ark of Taste" in 2001 to prevent their disappearance from the American table.